1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2009–10  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 04/06/2010   
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Contents >> National accounts >> Fifty Years of Quarterly National Accounts (Article)


The release of the June quarter 2009 ABS National Income, Expenditure, and Product (5206.0) marks an important milestone for the Australian National Accounts. With the first official quarterly estimates published in respect of September 1959, users now have available fifty years of quarterly time series detailing the structure and performance of the Australian economy.

The initial quarterly national accounts (released in December 1960) consisted of only income and expenditure estimates in current price original terms. Since then the Accounts have greatly expanded to better meet user needs. Some of the key milestones in this expansion include the introduction of:

  • Seasonal adjustment (1967)
  • Constant price estimates (1971), and chain volume measures (1998)
  • Industry production estimates (1988)
  • Flow of funds estimates (1990), leading to quarterly Financial Accounts (1992)
  • Supply-Use benchmarking (1998)

In addition to these major developments, there have been innumerable other analytical series added into the accounts such as labour productivity measures (i.e. GDP per hour worked, Unit Labour Costs) and real income measures (Gross Domestic Income and Gross National Disposable Income) amongst others. From an initial publication of some 200 data series in 1960, the release of each quarter of the Australian National Accounts now sees some 15,000 data series released via the ABS website.

While preserving the time series, the ABS has ensured the National Accounts remain relevant and contemporary through updated standards and classifications. The international standards for producing National Accounts are set out in the System of National Accounts (SNA). The Australian National Accounts have kept pace with the evolving international standards by the introduction of SNA68 in 1973 and SNA93 in 1998. In the September 2009 quarter Australia is the first country to introduce the latest SNA (SNA08). Also in the September 2009 quarter the Accounts move to a new industry classification (Australian and New Zealand Standard Industry Classification edition 2006), a classification of industry which better reflects the contemporary Australian economy.

Critical to the acceptance and use of the National Accounts is assisting users in their understanding the Accounts. An important development on this front first took place in 1981 when the first Concepts Sources and Methods (CSM) publication describing the National Accounts was released. The CSM was updated in 1990 and again in 2000. On both occasions the updates followed significant changes introduced to the National Accounts. A major component of the 2010 work program will be the development of another update to the Concepts, Sources and Methods material.

A coherent time series is critical whether the analysis is aimed at understanding and identifying the nature of a phenomenon in a data-set, or whether it is attempting to forecast that data-set. With fifty years of time series and 15,000 series produced each quarter, users of National Accounts statistics today are better served than ever before.

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